Cautionil

the coroner, in view of an inquest ; and even then, a post-mortem in the tropics, on a body exhumed after seven days, would hardly be reliable.

" It is excessively difficult to get information out of a West Indian negro. The bump of caution should be extraordinarily developed. On being questioned, Quashie will invariably give a misleading answer ; he may not see the drift of your question, but, for fear of incriminating himself or others, will always put one off the scent as much as possible. I remember once going into a village, and asking the first woman I met for a certain man. ' No/ she did not know any one of the name. That woman, I afterwards found out was his wife, but not knowing what I wanted him. for, and fearing that it might be for something to his disadvantage, unblushingly declared she had never seen such a man. There is also another great obstacle in finding out any person in some of the islands, Grenada especially, owing to each man having a number of names. Say a man was baptized John Jones. This he will call his Sunday name, only to be used on grand occasions, and for daily use he will be known by some nickname, such as, ' Coalpot/ 'Lovely/ i Braveboy/ &c.— Then again, they constantly mix up Christian with surname. If the man named John Jones have a son, the boy will be baptized 'John James/ his son will be baptized ' James Robert/ and so on ; the surname of the father will be taken for the Christian name of the son*

"Fifty or sixty years ago, the practice of Obeah being the cause of bo much loss of slave property ty poisoning, it was found necessary to enact the nftogl stringent laws for its repression, and an imporiaat ordinance was passed in all the West Indian c<>1< flits imposing heavy penalties on any person found guilty of dealing in Obeah. Unfortunately, through tte knowledge possessed by some of the old negroes d numerous poisonous bushes and plants, unknown to medicine, but found in every tropical wood, it is to bt feared that numerous deaths might still be traced to the agency of these Obeah men. The secret and insidious manner in which this crime is generally perpetrated makes detection exceedingly difficult."

CHAPTER IL

Christmas in the Caribbees—Death of a sorcerer—Obeah stock in trade—Profitable business—Mysterious dimenagefnent —Wholesale poisoning—Pfcrs Labat's antidote—Marvel-Ions result.

Christmas morning! jet trees are green, and butterflies are fluttering in the air. As I ride along the winding path, returning from a refreshing dip in the sea, I can hardly realize that this is winter! that^on the other side of the Atlantic it is miserably cold, perhaps snow on the ground, and probably most people indoors, shivering round a fire; while here—a lovely, cool, spice-laden breeze is wafted down from the mountains yonder—the sun shines down out of a bright blue sky, and humming-birds of gorgeous colouring flit over the scented black sage bushes. The path, now and then shaded with clumps of feathery bamboos or bushy tufted gru-gru palms, skirts a hillside covered with waving sugar-canes, while in the distance, I can see the deep blue ocean, stretching away till sea and sky melt in a haze.

My companion, a genial French Homan Catholio priest, rides a few paces ahead, his bathing towel slung round his neck, and in his mouth a never missing cigarette. An " Obeah bottle " hanging to a mango-tree draws my attention to the subject which interests me so much, and riding up, I ask my com* panion what he can tell me about the superstitions of the country.

a Ah, my dear fellow, I can't remember half I hear and notice on these ever-present superstitions of the people, but I assure you that it is one of tho greatest obstacles I meet with in my work among my parishioners; these foolish but bo deeply rooted beliefs of theirs in the power of Obeah and witchcraft meet me at every turn, and after talking for hours, and trying to prove to them how ridiculous and senseless all these ideas are, I only obtain a seeming acquiescence, and make no lasting impression. I have tried everything to combat the baneful influence, and endeavoured to make them ashamed of their ignorance and credulity, but with precious little effect. ■: I have even adopted the Japanese custom of punishing a whole street for the misdeeds of one criminal living in it, by refusing the sacraments for a time to a whole family, if a member of it be known to be dabbling in Obeah—all to small purpose.

" This reminds me that, only the other day, I was riding to see a sick person living on the other side of the parish, when I happened to pass a small wooden house, before which a number of people were con*

0 0

Post a comment